March 7, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously extended the mandate of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) for a further year, until February 28, 2014.
After it re-authorised the presence of the mission in Somalia, the Security Council said it “welcomes the progress made by AMISOM in reducing civilian casualties during its operations”.
The 15-member body urged the peacekeeping force to enhance its efforts to prevent civilian casualties.
In Wednesday’s resolution, the UN Council also partially lifted an arms embargo imposed on Somalia over two decades ago.
The 12-month period lifting of the arms embargo will allow the fragile Somali government to purchase light weapons including automatic assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other firearms.
The resolution will strengthen the Somali security forces in their battle against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shaabab insurgents and also to sustain control on the areas liberated from the Islamist fighters.
The resolution, however, will not apply to heavy weapons such as surface-to-air missiles, larger-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars, anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night-vision weapon sights.
The resolution “shall not apply to deliveries of weapons or military equipment or the provision of advice, assistance or training, intended solely for the development of the Security Forces of the Federal Government of Somalis, and to provide security for the Somali people.”
Prior to receiving deliveries of any weapons, the Somali Government is required to notify the Council’s Sanctions Committee at least five days in advance.
UN member states who wish to assist are also obliged to first inform the Committee on details before making the arms delivery.
In a statement, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who assumed office last September, has welcomed the UN move, saying it "correctly reflects a new and constant improvement of the political situation in Somalia".
"The lifting of the embargo was the missing element," the president. He added: "Thousands of Somali army recruits, trained by our international partners, have returned to Somalia but were unable to fulfill their security duty alongside the AMISOM troops because the government could not get the equipment it needed”.
The African Union peace keeping forces were deployed in war torn Somalia in 2007, after they were granted a UN mandate from the Security Council, to help the weak Somali government which faced challenges from Islamic militants who took control of most parts of the country.